By Pat Gesualdo
As drum teachers, we all know that teaching learning disabled students can be quite a challenge, even for the most experienced teachers. My pioneering techniques of drum therapy are used on a global basis to help the special needs population. All teachers, especially drum teachers, will have a special needs student at some point in time. Some teachers push these students aside, while others try to face the challenge of helping these students straight on.
Teaching special needs students is not for everyone, which I totally understand. It is extremely difficult.
Some teachers might think that their student is “just being difficult,” as opposed to understanding that the student really has a problem. Disabilities can appear in many ways, and can affect the student’s attitude, coordination, and retention. If you have a student with one, or many issues, you need to know that there are certain ways to deal with each specific disability. Drum therapists are highly skilled, and trained to deal with all of these issues.
Special needs students can be very high functioning, or extremely low functioning, depending upon the severity of the disability. Sometimes it is very difficult to help these students, as they can have several kinds of disabilities at the same time. It takes time to work with students who have numerous disabilities, because as the drum therapy intervention starts to help fight one disability, there is another disability which is right behind the first one, then possibly one or more behind that. It can take an extended amount of time to help students with numerous disabilities.
Drum instructors should use specific lesson plans and outlines in their drum lessons. Although the mainstream drum instruction, and drum therapy intervention outlines are completely different, they are still related in some way, because they help students reach even the most basic drumming and cognitive milestones at the same time.
Drum instructors and the drum therapists should always remember the following strategies when teaching special needs students to develop physical and cognitive functioning:
- Extreme patience at all times.
- Start all lessons slowly.
- Increase the speed of exercises, rhythms, and patterns slowly.
- Repeat exercises and patterns slowly and often, at the end of each lesson.
- Make sure the student knows the material before they leave the lesson.
Celebrated drum virtuoso Pat Gesualdo made drumming, medical, and education history with his pioneering techniques of Drum Therapy, and his non-profit organization, D.A.D. (Drums and Disabilities). Senators and Congressman throughout the United States call on Gesualdo to help them write disability legislation. Gesualdo’s most recent Legislation was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie. Gesualdo was invited to the White House to meet the President in an effort to help wounded troops through D.A.D., and the U.S. Department of State brought him to the West Bank region of Israel to help disabled Israeli and Palestinian children. Various celebrities, sports stars, community leaders, and law enforcement agencies join with him to help special needs children and adults fight disabilities throughout the world. He is the author of the groundbreaking drum instruction book Drum Therapy. Gesualdo is a contributing writer to Modern Drummer magazine, and is an artist/clinician for Pro-Mark Drumsticks, Evans Drumheads, ProLogix Percussion, and Zildjian Cymbals.